In Pennsylvania Courts, every defendant has the right to file an appeal. This legal process is a challenge to the legality of the trial, and can only begin after a person is convicted of a crime. Once convicted, there are ten days to file motions with the trial court to challenge its proceedings. As soon as the convict is sentenced, a 30-day timer starts to file a notice of appeal with the state court. Deadlines to file can pass very quickly, and it is important to retain legal counsel knowledgeable of the appeals process.
If you need legal assistance with a criminal appeal in Pennsylvania, contact Mosser Legal at 215-567-1220
If you are considering an appeal, it is useful to understand how the appeals process works in Pennsylvania. The process follows strict guidelines.
If a person loses his or her case at trial, Pennsylvania gives a ten-day window for the defense to enter any formal challenges into the court record. This period starts immediately after the convict is sentenced. Court records will become the focus of the appeals process, and its important that any objections not already entered during the trial be made in this timeframe.
The court has 120 days to respond, and there are rare cases where a judge will actually overturn the ruling based on these motions. More commonly, a judge will deny the motion with a written opinion. The judge’s reasoning for his or her denial will become the basis for the state’s argument in the appeal process.
The Notice of Appeal
To begin appealing a court decision, formal notice must be given to a superior court. The window to make this filing is 30 days after the receipt of the judge’s opinion on the post-sentence motions..
Statement of Errors
Pennsylvania law has a unique appeals requirement, called a Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal. This is different from both the notice of appeal and the full appeal brief. The courts must respond to this formal statement with a Rule 1925 Opinion, named for the section of the Rules of Appellate Procedure mandating this document.
At this point, your appeals lawyer will write an exhaustive study of the legal arguments for challenging your trial, called a brief. This could involve any matter of law, from a Supreme Court precedent to small details like how evidence was collected and stored. The state will likewise file a brief arguing why the ruling should be upheld.
A three-judge panel will read these briefs, and perform any further legal research they deem necessary. They won’t look at new evidence (except in rare circumstances) or question witnesses. Only what entered the record at trial will be examined. They may ask lawyers from both sides to appear for oral arguments, but many appeals are settled on briefs alone..
The Court Rules
At the end of this long process, three Pennsylvania Superior Court judges will render an opinion. Each judge may write their own opinion, explaining why they decided why they did. When these judges disagree, the majority opinion prevails, but all three opinions enter the court record. Most appeals stop here, but in exceptional cases the appeal can be carried to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for further legal review.